If you’re a woman you have good reason to be concerned about breast cancer, the most prevalent form of cancer affecting women around the world. About one in eight American women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in her lifetime, and in 2019 alone, 41,760 American women are expected to lose their lives to the disease.

But there is something that women can do to protect themselves. 

Research published this August in the International Journal of Cancer points to some practical steps women can take to reduce their breast cancer risk.

"Substituting poultry for red meat may be a simple change that can help reduce the cases of breast cancer," lead researcher Dale Sandler, senior investigator at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, told U.S. News and World Report.

This cohort study involved the voluntary participation of 42,000 women ages 35-74 from the United States and Puerto Rico who were followed for seven-and-a-half years. Called the “Sister Study,” participating women had a family history of breast cancer through a sister or half-sister but had no prior history of breast cancer themselves.

Researchers found that women who consumed the most poultry had a 15% decreased risk of invasive breast cancer compared with those who ate the least, particularly when it came to postmenopausal invasive breast cancer. Women who ate the most red meat, on the other hand, had a 23% increased risk of cancer compared with those who ate the smallest amounts of red meat. 

In their analysis, the researchers adjusted for age, ethnicity, lifetime duration of breastfeeding, body mass index, household income, educational attainment, alcohol consumption, smoking and other factors that could have potentially affected the results.

The researchers noted that while there’s some evidence that smoking meats or using high-temperature methods for cooking meat (such as grilling or barbecuing) can increase cancer risk, this study found no association between grilled or very well-done red meat and an increased risk of breast cancer. 


"Association between meat consumption and risk of breast cancer: Findings from the Sister Study." 6 August 2019. Jamie J. Lo et al.